Each and every day, in-house custodial professionals and building service contractors (BSCs) complete repetitive cleaning tasks.
Over time, these motions have the potential to cause physical pain and reduce employee satisfaction, thereby affecting your business’ productivity and profitability.
Understanding the way equipment impacts physical health and methods for improving ergonomic stressors will better prepare your workers for their cleaning crusades.
What’s The Risk?
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), ergonomics involves assessing work-related factors that pose risks to individuals and finding solutions to alleviate those problems.
Thus, rather than forcing workers to fit the demands of their occupation, ergonomics designs the job to fit to workers’ needs.
OSHA identifies “repetitive, forceful or prolonged exertions of the hands; frequent or heavy lifting, pushing, pulling or carrying of heavy objects; and prolonged awkward postures” as ergonomic risk factors.
The intensity, frequency and duration of these motions also impact a worker’s health by contributing to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which affect the body’s muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments.
In cleaning operations, lifting mop buckets, operating heavy machinery, bending and reaching are typical tasks and movements that put workers in danger.
Back, shoulder, neck and wrist pain especially are among ergonomic-related strains for custodial workers.
In fact, according to OSHA, MSDs accounted for 29 percent of all workplace injuries and illnesses that required employees to miss work in 2010.
Among all occupations, janitors and cleaners rank in the top five for these MSD cases.
In addition to time away from work, on-the-job injuries lead to high workers’ compensation claims or OSHA citations, which can significantly affect business success and reputation.
The Right Fit
New advances in equipment design can limit the prevalence of workplace injuries.
Professional cleaners should use machines and tools that are friendlier to their back, knees and shoulders.
Specifically, it is important to look for cleaning carts, mops and floor care machines with ergonomic features.
Cleaning carts offer staffs a convenient way to carry numerous cleaning products and tools from room to room.
Look for models allowing multiple configurations that provide employees with the best cart to fit the task they are performing.
Keeping commonly used supplies near the top of the cart can help reduce ergonomic risk factors by eliminating the need for frequent reaching.
Other enhancements like adjustable handles and 360-degree rotating wheels provide easy maneuverability and limit unnecessary bending and twisting.
A major aspect of every cleaning program is floor maintenance.
For facilities that use mops, a current trend is to move from using traditional string mops to microfiber mops in certain areas.
These microfiber mops are lightweight and easy to handle and eliminate the need to wring a mop, which can lead to back and shoulder pain.
Additionally, using microfiber mops in a pre-wetted process reduces the amount of weight employees have to move.
Pre-wetting uses the exact amount of cleaning solution to get the job done, reducing repetitive motions and intense scrubbing that is sometimes required for problem areas.
Using microfiber cloths to clean other surfaces such as countertops and mirrors is also recommended because they effectively and quickly trap dirt in their fibers.
These allow staffs to quickly clean and dry floors in one pass with minimal effort.
With a multitude of walk-behind, ride-on and stand-on autoscrubbers available, it is important to understand features, such as weight, that best support a user’s health.
Lightweight machines are easier to transport and allow staffs to exert less force while pushing and pulling the units.
Handles with height adjustment and more comfortable grips are also emerging to enhance user comfort.
Look for vacuums and autoscrubbers that position employees’ hands in a more neutral position and offer protection from vibration.
Over time, these vibrations can cause discomfort in fingers, hands and wrists.
The Final Push
Once your facility has implemented user-friendly, ergonomic solutions, it is crucial that cleaning staffs are properly trained.
Incorrect use of ergonomically-designed equipment can be just as detrimental as using products that lack ergonomic features.
Demonstrate to workers how to efficiently and safely operate new tools and equipment so that they do not fall back into old and potentially harmful habits.
This also ensures that employees obtain the desired results and leave facilities in pristine condition after each cleaning.